Aaron M. Smith
News Herald Sports Editor
GENOA – After slapping hands with Genoa after the final gun sounded on Port Clinton's 34-8 romp over the Comets, Port Clinton players raced to their side of the field and stopped.
Assistant coach Carey Clum whispered to first-year coach Toby Hammond, "They don't know what to do."
Hammond smiled and had his Redskins form a victory circle for the first time in more than a year. They jumped, shouted as they spelled R-E-D-S-K-I-N-S and mobbed each other holding up their helmets.
It was a sight that, needless to say, was a welcome one to the Port Clinton faithful.
Senior Matt Rhode said he didn't know how to react after the blowout victory.
"We haven't won like that in forever," Rhode said. "We got to our end and we didn't know what to do. We don't know how to celebrate. We're usually walking off the field with our heads down."
On Friday, it was a much different ending.
Josh Wierzba rushed for 145 yards on 20 carries while punching the ball into the end zone four times -- his first on a 50-yard burst on the third play of the game. Wierzba said his offensive line is to thank for his success at Comet Stadium.
"Those guys were awesome," he said. "Every one of them was great. Brian Skinner, Evan Whiting, Colin Munson, Ty Gardner and Ben Ihnat. They all were awesome. Anyone could have run like that behind them. The holes were huge. You could have driven a Mack truck through those holes."
Hammond, a coach used to celebrating on the sidelines, could only smile at the sight of his team finally celebrating after two heartbreaking losses to open the season.
"I've won before," he said. "I can't say how happy I am for these kids. For what they've gone through, I just feel so happy for them. They come in and work their butts off every day and finally they have a W to show for it."
With 9:26 remaining in the fourth quarter and the Redskins leading 34-0, the Port Clinton starting squad left the field to a standing ovation from its fans.
"I've never experienced that before," Rhode said. "I can't explain how good that felt. None of these guys have felt that before."
With the daunting Sandusky Bay Conference season approaching, Hammond knew how important it was to pick up a victory in Week 3. He knew that his players needed to taste success heading into conference play.
"If we went out and laid an egg tonight, we'd be in for a long season," Hammond said. "If you want to talk about must-win games, this was the one. I'm very pleased with how we came out and played tonight."
Wierzba, listed as a slot back on the Redskins' roster, took on full running responsibilities on Friday as Grant Dziak was sidelined after suffering a concussion in last week's loss to Sylvania Northview.
The junior running back scored on runs of 50, 1, 1 and 11 yards and helped the Redskins keep the lead they jumped out to in the first half.
"Josh is an absolute workhorse," Rhode said. "No one person can bring him down. When we're out blocking for him, we know he'll make good reads."
The Redskins held a 12-0 lead and took over on downs at their own 34 yard-line. From there, quarterback Joe Higgins went to work with less than 3 minutes.
Higgins completed three passes, including a fourth-and-12 play at Genoa's 34. Higgins fired a strike to Joe Timmons, who hauled in the pass at the Comet 11. After an incomplete pass, Higgins drilled a pass to freshman Jared Cox. Cox caught the ball at the 2 yard-line and plowed his way into the end zone for the score. Higgins completed the two-point pass attempt to Timmons and the Redskins took a 20-0 lead into the intermission.
"I told the guys that we can't let up, that the game was not over," Rhode said. "We knew they were coming into the game 0-2 and that if we took it to them in the third quarter, it would take the wind out of their sails."
The Redskins did just that.
Behind the ground attack that ate up yardage and the clock, Port Clinton scored twice more to take a 34-0 lead. Hammond credits his team's second-half composure and stamina to his assistant coaches.
"When we met after losing to Northview, the coaches said that we condition too much at practice," Hammond said. "We lost steam against Northview in the second half and lost. This week we didn't do a lot of conditioning and the guys were fresh. My assistants noticed that."
Genoa coach Bill Jones said that he was proud of his players.
"I'll give credit to Port Clinton," he said. "They did a nice job of getting their team ready to play and they came out and took it to us.
"But we had two freshman and five sophomores in our offensive starting lineup," Jones continued. "We're a couple years away. Our guys worked as hard as they could and I couldn't be happier with them. Port Clinton is considerably better than us right now, but we will catch up."